Thursday, March 26, 2020

AAFES Goes Cashless in Wake of Coronavirus Pandemic

  I used to buy all my running shoes from the local PX when I was in the military.  It wasn’t until my final years in the service that I purchased my footwear from running specialty shops.  In that time, I have not handed over any physical bills for shoes in well over a decade… at least.

  Last night, I received news that AAFES, the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (think Wal-Mart or Target, but for two of the branches of the Department of Defense), is asking all its customers to minimize the use of cash and checks, and instead go with credit/debit cards or gift cards.  This will limit exchanging physical items since the Chief Financial Officer of AAFES pointed out that bacteria and viruses can live on paper and coins for a period of time.

  This kind of reminded me of my last several deployments when the base shops would not take coins, but instead use pogs as currency. Of course, back then reducing a type of money was not for sanitary reasons, but for dealing with funding shortages, because no one wanted to pay for a soda in nothing but pennies.

   Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic is something to take seriously.

You can read the email I received below:

How you can help keep military communities safe from COVID-19

Dear Soldiers, Airmen, military family members, retirees and Veterans,

It has been an honor to serve you amid the global disruption caused by COVID-19. As the virus spreads, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is taking precautions to protect the health and safety of our Nation’s heroes. But we need your help.

Studies show that paper money and coins can harbor bacteria and viruses long after they change hands. We are asking Exchange shoppers to help in the fight against the transmission of COVID-19 through increased reliance on bank-issued credit and debit, MILITARY STAR® or gift cards instead of cash. Please note that cash-back and check-cashing transactions may be unavailable during this time.

While some Exchanges may transition to a card-only environment as local needs dictate, we ask that shoppers minimize the use of cash regardless of location. Customers in need of cash transactions or services can contact their local Exchange to inquire about the status of such transactions at their nearest location.

On behalf of the Exchange, thank you for joining us in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. We are in this together!


Jim Jordan
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Army & Air Force Exchange Service
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Monday, March 16, 2020

The Coronavirus Affecting Races is like the First Sergeant Cancelling Your Four Day Pass

  This was going to be a slightly funny article. Military humor can be a little sadistic and sarcastic simultaneously in times of crisis.  A lot of my civilian friends and co-workers do not get my sense of humor, or lack thereof according to my wife.

  But back to the main point, since the Coronavirus became a real threat to people in America, basically while college and university students went on Spring Break, race directors and organizers have been reacting to the Coronavirus situation in their own way. 

  Events like the NewYork City Half-Marathon; the All-American Marathon at Fort Bragg and Fayetteville North Carolina; the Tobacco Road Marathon outside of Raleigh North Carolina; the Allstate Hot Chocolate 5k/15k series in San Diego, Philadelphia and Minneapolis; and the Quarry Crusher series in Columbia, South Carolina andBirmingham, Alabama have been canceled with most if not all organizers offering to defer each participant to the next year’s respective events.

  Other races such as the Boston Marathon and the Cooper River Bridge Run (10k) in Charleston, South Carolina have postponed their races from the Spring to late Summer or even late Autumn in an effort to keep the event going that calendar year.

  Running is a fickle subject with a lot of people.  Most people dredge running or outright do not do it.  In the military, you are forced upon the activity of running and “you will enjoy it.”  Running is a key part of each service’s physical fitness or aptitude test.  And a lot of people I know who get out of the service do not run after leaving because they hated the way someone or some people made them run “all the time.”

  But there’s people like me, who love to run, who look forward to it.  And signing up for a race is a way of expression for me.  I get out there and I feel free. Of course, I don’t feel completely free when a 12 year kid blows by me, but I’m an old timer now and I’m here to enjoy myself, not beat everyone’s two mile run time.

  Which is why when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, it affected my running schedule harder than expected.  My wife and I had things planned to do after each race.  But now that races are canceled until at least May, there is not much need to us to travel to places like Charleston, Charlotte, Greenville, or even downtown.  And in each instance, we planned to visit sights and eateries in the local areas.

  I had things planned out, I paid the expenses for events, I coordinated with the wife to make sure we had no conflicting agendas (because we don’t need another day of “which race did YOU sign up for?), and then Covid-19 put the kabash on that.  I know the pandemic is serious, and it affects a lot of people, some of them fatally, but watching each race I signed up for get shot down is akin to me being a little E-3 and the first sergeant figuratively kicking me in the reproductive organ area with a motor pool issued steel toed boot and say, “Not today, son. Now go hose off the Bradley tracks on the ground with the pressure washer” while it’s raining.

Because I’ve seen that happen before. The last part, not a 1SG physically kicking someone in the balls.